Wednesday 19 December 2018

East Midlands Councillor Development Charter

What is the Councillor Development Charter?

The Councillor Development Charter and Charter Plus exist to: 

  • Encourage councils to develop an effective strategy or approach to councillor development.
  • Recognise those councils that have developed an effective approach.
  • Encourage councils to continue that development and share their experiences and learning.

As a first step councils are asked to commit to the Charter - to make a commitment to develop the necessary strategy and processes to support effective councillor development.  Once achieved the Charter is held for three years during which time the Council can use the charter symbol.  At the end of this period there is a reassessment to ensure the council is still at least meeting the Charter requirements.  At this point, if the council decides it has made sufficient progress, it could opt to be assessed for the Charter Plus award.

There are 3 essential criteria to achieving the Charter:

  1. There is a clear commitment to councillor development.
  2. The Council has a strategic approach to councillor development.
  3. Learning and development is effective in building councillor capacity.

Within each of these there are a number elements and requirements to demonstrate that the criteria are being met.  These do not dictate what should be in the strategy, the nature of the content or the delivery mechanisms that should be used. The emphasis is on ensuring that all councillors are appropriately developed and supported so that they can be effective in their roles. 

Charter documents

Below are some helpful documents.  Firstly there is the overall guide to the Charter and the Charter Requirements.  There are also self-assessment templates for Charter and Charter Plus levels.  These provide a guide for self-assessment and drawing up an action plan to achieve the required award.  Councils wanting to use their own action planning format should do so.

Member Development Charter and Charter Plus 2016

MD Charter Self Assessment 2016

MD Charter Plus Self-assessment 2016

Charter Statement of Commitment

Charter Plus Statement of Commitment

Some helpful questions to ask

Those responsible for drawing up the action plan should look at each point on the guidelines and "What this means in practice" section and ask:

  • What evidence do we have that suggests we are following good practice?
  • What action do we need to take, if any, to follow good practice or continuously improve?
  • When will this action be done by?
  • Who will be responsible for this action?

Why do we need it? - The challenge facing councillors 

There are many challenges facing local government: in Rewiring Public Services1 the LGA sets these out as:

  • Rejuvenating local democracy so that public services can help communities to meet people's future needs and aspirations, and rebuilding democratic participation.
  • Adult social care and health and the need for local government to have a universal offer for all citizens, including families, neighbours and friends who are informal carers.
  • Children’s services and the need to enable a better connection between schools and other education providers and the needs of local employers and place-based public service budgets approach to boost early intervention and prevention.
  • Financial sustainability providing a new financial model that would give people a meaningful say over local taxation, spending and borrowing.
  • Economic growth is the great political and social problem. Young people need jobs, businesses need customers, high streets need hope.

 Councillors have a key role in meeting these challenges both as the strategic leaders of the council as an organisation and also in providing leadership to their local communities and places.  Meeting these challenges at the local level will require councillors to transform both their organisations and change the way they relate to their communities and places both individually and collectively.  Yet if councillors are to play their part they need to be effective in their roles.  The council’s processes supporting them also need to be appropriate and relevant to their needs.

The importance of councillor development

It is unlikely that any individual will become a councillor (or cabinet member) already having all the skills, knowledge and understanding they need to be effective in that role.  They will need some training and development not only to acquire those abilities but to keep them current and relevant to the changing environment and context.

The House of Commons committee report Councillors on the Frontline2 also highlights the importance of training and development not only to support councillors but also, by demonstrating that support is available, to encourage others to come forward to stand for election.  The report also highlighted the importance of developing the “soft skills” councillors need (e.g. communication and influencing skills) as well as providing effective induction programmes for newly elected councillors. 

1 Rewiring Public Services campaign was launched by the LGA at its conference in July 2013. For more information go to the LGA website: http://www.local.gov.uk/campaigns/

2 Councillors on the Frontline report published by the Communities and Local Government Committee of the House of Commons in Dec 2012.  For more details go to: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmselect/cmcomloc/432/43202.htm

What Charter support is available?

Most authorities have some form of support programme in place . However, the approach and levels of commitment and effectiveness vary.  Below is a list of support available from East Midlands Councils:

1. East Midlands Councillor Development Charter Assessor Training

Who is it for?

Councillors and officers whose authorities have signed up to the EM Councillor Development Charter

What does it cost?

£175.00 +VAT per person

Aims:

  • to understand the requirements of the charter in greater detail covering both the standards and the various roles
  • to understand the processand principles of assessment through discussion and practical group case study
  • to describe the charter process from sign up to achievement and benefit from examples of templates already produced 

2. Charter action plan support and guidance

3. Communications and presentations within the authority to relevant stakeholders 

4. Via the Councillor Development Network - visit here for more information 

 Charter Authorities in the East Midlands

Below are the authorities that have current Councillor Development Charter Status:  

  • Charnwood Borough Council - Achieved 9 March 2011; re-accredited in November 2014
  • Blaby District Council - Achieved 23 Nov 2010; Achieved re-accreditation of Charter 25 November 2013 & November 2016
  • Boston Borough Council - Achieved 12 Dec 2012, re-accredited in March 2016
  • Kettering Borough Council - Achieved June 2007, Achieved re-accreditation of Charter 23 March 2011 & November 2014
  • Lincolnshire County Council - Achieved 25 November 2008; Achieved re-accreditation of Charter 15 December 2011 & December 2014
  • Mansfield District Council - Achieved 16 November 2010; Achieved re-accreditation of Charter 28 November 2013 & November 2016
  • North Kesteven District Council - Achieved June 2006; Achieved re-accreditation of Charter in September 2009; Achieved second re-accreditation 30 September 2013; re-accrediation pending
  • South Holland District Council - Achieved 15 March 2010; Achieved re-accreditation of Charter 27 March 2013; re-accreditation pending

 Charter Plus

Charter Plus was introduced during 2009 as an optional, further level that builds on the main charter requirements. It is intended for councils that have already been awarded the charter and want to continue to grow and develop.  This provides an additional challenge within a nationally recognised framework  to further improve the member development and support arrangements. 

It reflects the growing interest in the wider member development debate. It challenges councils to make further achievements in terms of councillor support, promoting local democracy as well as in their approach to member training.

 How much does it cost?

The investment per authority is only paid once the authorirty has achieved the Charter standard.  The cost, which includes all assessment activities as well as ongoing support and advice, is £1750.00 + VAT. 

Councils are expected to maintain good practice and demonstrate improvements since achieving the Charter, therefore reaccreditation will take place within a minimum of 3 years. 

Re-accreditation costs

Re-accreditation -  £1000.00 + VAT & travel expenses for all assessors

More information

To access the above support, or for further information about the Councillor Development Charter, please contact Lisa Butterfill at lisa.butterfill@emcouncils.gov.uk on 01664 502643